Archives for the month of: May, 2013

I am changing my driving habits. I will never cross a bridge again. After the collapse of the bridge on I-5 over the Skagit River in Washington last week I have decided that all bridges are untrustworthy.

The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said the bridge collapse near Seattle is a wake-up call for the nation. The federal government has identified 66,000 bridges that are “structurally deficient,” meaning key elements are in poor condition. To maintain roads and bridges alone, the Federal Highway Administration estimates $190 billion is needed every year, compared to the $103 billion now being spent. The American Society of Civil Engineers says that about $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 to fix the country’s mounting problems.

So I will plan my future routes to avoid all bridges. As ludicrous as this decision is, so is the decision of many people to write off the Church as a part of their lives.

Often we hear of Christian leaders who have proven themselves to be untrustworthy. They have not been true to their vows and have violated the trust that has been placed in them. Serious breaches of moral behavior have occurred among church leaders from small congregations as well as those who have responsibility for millions of parishioners.

Charges of financial and sexual impropriety by people who have been entrusted to provide spiritual guidance are all too common. So it makes sense to abandon the institution they represent, right?

Disappointment and demand for accountability and change are definitely appropriate responses. But deserting the Church makes no more sense that refusing to drive over bridges because of structural deficiencies or shoddy construction.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe that major harm is done when spiritual leaders, clergy or laity, behave in ways that are contrary to the high moral standards of Christianity. I do not condone misconduct and do not suggest that such actions should be overlooked or minimized. I am simply saying just as bridges suffer structural deterioration and sometimes are not properly designed or built, leaders in the church are subject to the weaknesses of human nature and may sometimes abuse their privilege.

That being said, I believe when the attitudes and actions of anyone result in abuse or neglect of any person they are not accurate representations of Christ. Jesus taught that every individual is a person of sacred worth and should be treated as such. When the abuser is a leader in the Christian community, serious physical and emotional damage is done to individuals and to society at large.

Church officials should respond promptly and appropriate corrective action should be taken to address misconduct within its community. But to reject Christ and the institution that He established makes as much sense as leaving bridges out of the routes you plan to drive.

Jamie Jenkins

Jacky was five years old when his family’s house caught fire. Everyone escaped the burning building except the little boy. As the flames raged someone saw him in an upstairs bedroom window. Quickly they made a human chain and rescued him. His mother called him “a brand plucked from the burning.”

That event occurred February 9, 1709 and the boy’s name was John Wesley. He would grow up to become a man of great influence.

Twenty years later John and his brother Charles were leaders of a group of a religious study group known as the Holy Club. They were so methodical in their practice of study and devotion that people began referring them sarcastically as the “Methodists.” They studied the scriptures, celebrated Holy Communion frequently, fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, and worked among the poor and in prisons.

Critics of the Holy Club said:            “By rule they eat, by rule they drink. By rule they do all things but think. Accuse the priests of loose behavior to get more in the laymen’s favor. Method alone must guide ‘em all when themselves ‘Methodists’ they call.”

John was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church on September 22, 1728. Following his father’s death in 1735 at the encouragement of a friend and Gen. James Oglethorpe, he and Charles came to the colony of Georgia in North America to provide spiritual guidance to the colonists and to evangelize the Indians. The venture was not successful and John returned to England in December 1737.

On his voyage to the New World John encountered a group of Moravian Christians who seemed to possess the spiritual peace he was seeking. After his return to England he attended one of their meetings on Aldersgate Street, London. That evening, May 24, 1738,  “Wesley’s intellectual conviction was transformed into a personal experience” of God’s grace. His description was that “I felt my heart was strangely warmed.” From that point on, at the age of 35, Wesley felt it was his mission to proclaim the good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.

Wesley’s “heart-warming” experience had dramatic effect upon him and his ministry. He covered thousands of miles (as many as 20,000 a year) on horseback preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lives were changes and morals were altered for the better wherever he preached. Some historians credit him and the Methodist Movement that he started with sparing England the kind of tumultuous upheaval like the revolution that occurred in France.

Tomorrow marks the 275th anniversary of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience. Millions of the spiritual descendants of John Wesley across the globe will celebrate the occasion when he felt he did “trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

I pray that millions will have the same kind of life-changing and world transforming experience in 2013.

Jamie Jenkins

I believe in miracles. Reshma Begum, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight do too.

“I never thought of coming back alive,” said Reshma Begum after she was rescued from the rubble of the collapsed building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The 19-year-old seamstress started working at one of the factories on the second floor of the eight-story RanaPlaza on April 2. She earned 4,700 takas ($60) a month.

On April 24 co-workers told her there were cracks in the building but her bosses told her the building was safe. Shortly after arriving at work the building crumbled. She survived in a totally darkened room for 17 days on some water and four packets of cookies she foraged from knapsacks of others who died.

The military ended their gruesome task two days ago after removing 1127 corpses from the building. Reshma’s rescue was a ray of hope in the midst of all the horror and grief. The fact that she was spared does not lessen the grief and pain that others suffered but it does give evidence that unexpected and surprising things can and do happen. When they do occur we call them miracles.

Although Amanda Berry had been missing for a decade, since age 16, her unsolved case was widely remembered in Cleveland, Ohio. A 911 emergency call last week resulted in her being found. The police responded and found her holding a child in her arms on the porch of a house on Seymour Avenue. The first officer on the scene was “overwhelmed” to know that she was still alive.

After entering the house Officer Anthony Espada found two other women who had been held captive for ten years. One of the women identified herself as Georgina DeJesus who had disappeared in 2004 in a case that baffled police and received wide media attention. At that moment he was overcome with emotion. He said, “It was like one bombshell after another.”

The mother of Michelle Knight, the other rescued woman, said she had never stopped looking for her daughter. Gina DeJesus’ father never doubted that his daughter was still alive. “I knew she needed me and I never gave up,” he said. Her aunt, Sandra Ruiz, thanked everyone who had supported the family over the years.

Miracles like the rescue of Reshma, Amanda, Michelle, and Gina are not commonplace. But they do occur. While these positive outcomes do not diminish the hurt and loss that many experience, these stories remind us that nothing is impossible with God. And miracles come in all sizes.

Jamie Jenkins

I’m a preacher. Well, at least I preach. I know all that glitters ain’t gold. And I know that all who stand in the pulpit are not preachers. Some are more gifted than others. Nevertheless, for most of my life I have tried to faithfully proclaim the Good News of the Gospel with varying degrees of success.

I make no claim that my sermons have been homiletical masterpieces. But when I have been privileged to preach, I have tried to bring:

Hope to those who feel hopeless
Peace to those who are troubled
Clarity to those who are confused
Guidance to those who are wandering
Encouragement to those who are discouraged
Light to those who are in darkness
Healing to those who are hurting
Assurance to those who are uncertain
Stability to those who are wavering
Forgiveness to those who are burdened with guilt
Grace to those who are bound by law
Joy to those who are disheartened
Confidence to those who are down on themselves
Answers to those who are puzzled
Salvation to those who are lost

Sometimes I have achieved the goal. Sometimes I have missed the mark. I accept responsibility for the times when my words have fallen flat. I know that I am fallible. My skills are limited. When folks have been helped by my words I know that it is not because of my gifts and abilities. It is because of God’s Spirit that has caused my words to connect with people’s needs.

As I prepare to preach my prayer is always, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). We would be well served if we approached every conversation and communication with that attitude.

Jamie Jenkins

You probably know the 5-P’s of success: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. I believe that and try to apply that principle to my life and work. Below is a humorous illustration of  the consequences of not planning properly. *

Dear Sir:

I am writing concerning your request for additional information. In block number 3 of the accident report form, I put “Poor planning” as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I needed to explain more fully, and I trust that what I am writing below will be enough.

As you know, I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a six story building. When I completed my work, I discovered that I had about 500 pounds of brick left over. Instead of carrying the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which I attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor. I went down and secured the rope at the ground level, then I went back up to the roof, swung the barrel out, and loaded the bricks into it. Next I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 500 pounds of bricks. (You will note in block number eleven of the accident report form that I weighed 135 pounds.)

Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building.

Somewhere in the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down. This explains the fractured skull and broken collarbone. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. That accounts for my broken finger. Fortunately, by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of my pain.

At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground – and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Without the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighted approximately fifty pounds. (I refer you again to my weight in block number eleven). As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. Again, in the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles and the bruises on my legs and lower body.

When I passed through the barrel it slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell on the pile of bricks and fortunately only three ribs were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the pile of bricks in pain – unable to stand and watching the empty barrel six stories above me – I again lost my presence of mind – I LET GO OF THE ROPE!

The point: Think things through from beginning to end.

Jamie Jenkins

*The origin of this “letter” is unclear but it seems to have been around for a long time and several variations are readily accessible on the internet.